Join Date: Jan 2008
[Chris] Evert's departure from the French Open was as stunning as [Gabriela] Sabatini's was dramatic. The seven-time champion was destroyed by [Martina] Navratilova 6-2, 6-2, in a semifinal match that lasted only 73 minutes. That was exactly half as long as it took [Steffi] Graf to beat Sabatini 6-4, 4-6, 7-5A newspaper report from the Associated Press and published in the Record-Journal (Meridan, Connecticut) on 3 July 1987 (http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=hP9HAAAAIBAJ&sjid=OQANAAAAIBAJ&pg=36 78,475433&dq=chris-evert+and+french-open+disappointed+and+navratilova&hl=en):
Both matches were delayed by rain on yet another day of fluky weather, sunny one minute, rainy the next.
"I'm really not sure what happened because I haven't had a chance to think about it yet," said a confused and upset Evert. "Maybe I didn't think about the match enough. I'd been hitting the ball well and I thought I could go out and just do that again. But playing Martina is different than playing baseliners."
Evert was missing in a way Evert almost never misses - approach shots sailed long, backhands went wide, forehands cracked the net tape. Navratilova actually led, 6-2, 5-0, and had two match points before Evert salvaged a tiny piece of pride by saving those points and getting to 5-2. It was so bad that in this, their 72nd meeting, which Navratilova leads 38-34, Navratilova found her mind wandering, her thoughts turning to Evert near the end of the match.
"I couldn't help myself there near the end," she said. "I was trying to end the match and I caught myself thinking, 'My God, I'm glad it's not me losing like this but I know how bad she's going to feel.' And then I began to think that I know I'll be here next year but Chris might not be. So, I started thinking, 'Is this the end for Chris at the French?'"
Chris Evert came up a loser Friday, though she played her best tennis in a semifinal match that will become a Wimbledon legend. Even Martina Navratilova, who beat her, wept for Chris.
Evert said the sorrow was misplaced.
"I can't play any better," Evert said after losing 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 to her longtime rival on Centre Court.
"This is her best surface. If anything, I feel proud of myself. Today I played really, really well and I can't ask any more of myself," Evert said.
Navratilova had tears in her eyes at the end of the two-hour, two-minute match.
"It was for Chris losing," Navratilova said. "I really wished that she could win this tournament one more time. It actually overwhelmed me. I did not expect to feel that much. Knowing that we're close to the end and that people have been writing Chris off, she comes back and plays one of the best matches of her life and still loses. We were talking as we walked off court. I didn't have a chance to get too sentimental about it. We were just talking about the match. When we shook hands, Chris said, 'I hope I didn't take too much out of you for the final.' I mean, what a thing to say. I'm just proud and thrilled to be part of this, and I honestly wish that we could have stopped at 30-all [in the last game of the match]."
The 73rd meeting between the two was one of their most exhiliarating, and it captivated a capacity crowd that included Britain's Pricess Diana and middleweight boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard.
Navratilova, serving brilliantly, angling her volleys, steady and powerful off the ground, diving all over the court, hardly made a mistake.
Evert, blasting scorching service returns and passing shots to the forehand and backhand, made just a few more.
Points came on more outright winners than unforced errors.
But one of the players had to lose and fate fell on Evert, who trails 39-34 in the long rivalry.
She pinpointed two key points that she said may have lost her the match.
In the first game of the final set, Evert dropped her serve after leading 30-0. Had she won the game, she would have moved ahead in the match.
"That disappointed me," she said. "After that, I was always down a game."
The other moment of frustration, she said, came when Navratilova served for the match at 5-4.
"I had break point and she serves a ball down the (middle), right on the line," Evert said. "But I'm just happy that I did not lose the match. Martina won it."
Evert, 32, said it was the best match the rivals had ever played on grass.
"She served unbelievably well, and I served well. Obviously, I'm disappointed because it came down to one game. But I feel I put everything on the line," Evert said. "It's too bad in a match like that, that there has to be a loser. I'm not one to break down in front of people (when I lose). I went to the back room and showed my emotion a little bit."
Evert said she preferred to lose in a tight match than be thrashed in straight sets, as she was by Navratilova in the semifinal of last month's French Open.
"This was probably the happiest I've felt after a loss in a long time," she said. "I really felt competitive, and that feeling has been in and out this year. This is Martina's best surface. She's going to do the most damage on grass. She's had the most success on this Centre Court. I felt like I put everything on the line ... especially considering it was on grass courts, which still suits her game better than my game."
Navratilova, going for a record sixth consecutive Wimbledon title, said the match was of as high a standard as any she had played against Evert.
Twice Navratilova launched herself into the air to hit winning shots.
It was dramatic theatre, and it came on Centre Court of the world's most prestigious grass-court tournament.
"That was as high as anything, if not the best, because there were just so few unforced errors," Navratilova said. "It was incredible. It was winners, just winners or forced errors. Chris never served better against me or hit the ball deeper or more consistently. It was definitely the best that she ever played that I still won."